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Sensing the Airs: The Cultural Context for Breathing and Breathlessness in Uruguay

Wainwright, M.

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Abstract

The sensory experience of breathing, particularly the sensation of breathlessness in the case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a rich though understudied topic in medical anthropology. Fieldwork in Uruguay made it clear to me that to study the sensorial experience of breathlessness, I would also have to study the widely shared cultural conceptualizations and practices surrounding air, breath, and health. In this article, I illustrate ethnographically how the experience of breathing and breathlessness is closely tied to perceptions of air outside the body – in particular humidity, temperature change, wind, and contamination. In conceptualizing breath as the mechanism and air the medium for environmental embodiment, I bring together sensorial medical anthropology, anthropology of the body, and the anthropology of wind and climate. My findings, in light of similar findings across contexts, suggest that a body transformed by COPD is hyperperceptive and hypersensitive to changes in air.

Citation

Wainwright, M. (2017). Sensing the Airs: The Cultural Context for Breathing and Breathlessness in Uruguay. Medical Anthropology, 36(4), 332-347. https://doi.org/10.1080/01459740.2017.1287180

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 28, 2016
Online Publication Date Feb 7, 2017
Publication Date May 19, 2017
Deposit Date Feb 14, 2017
Publicly Available Date Mar 27, 2017
Journal Medical Anthropology
Print ISSN 0145-9740
Electronic ISSN 1545-5882
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 4
Pages 332-347
DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/01459740.2017.1287180

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Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (1.6 Mb)
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Publisher Licence URL
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2017 Megan Wainwright. Published with license by Taylor & Francis. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.







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